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Government to modernise product safety laws

20 April 2021

PLANS TO review and strengthen the UK’s product safety laws and ensure they are fit for the 21st century have been set out by business minister Paul Scully.

Much of the UK’s product safety regime has been underpinned by EU law and some dates back to 1987. Now the UK has full control of its product safety laws and we can set our own rules in the best interests of British businesses and consumers, the UK government is considering how to ensure our product safety regime reflects recent innovations, new consumer products and cutting-edge technologies like AI and 3D printing.

The call for evidence will also explore how the growth of online shopping and new technologies such as internet connected devices like smart watches, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, are making responsibility for product safety more complex – for example, if a smart fridge is operated unsafely following a software upgrade.

Exploring and introducing better regulation will be a key part of making the most of opportunities outside of the EU, stimulating growth, innovation and competition in the UK, whilst attracting new investment, enabling businesses to grow dynamically, and maintaining high standards.

Business minister Paul Scully said, "Now the UK has the freedom to set our own standards, we are determined to power ahead with a new, modern product safety regime which will unleash the creative potential of our businesses while keeping consumers safe.

"Much of the product safety system was devised in 1987 when The Terminator was still out on Betamax. Now we want to make sure artificial intelligence and robotics are working for us and not against by making the UK a world-leader for both safety and cutting-edge innovation."

Through software updates and AI techniques like machine learning, these products and their safety implications can continually change over their lifetimes, while modern manufacturing techniques like 3D printing mean products can be built in consumers’ homes.

The call for evidence will help to ensure regulations are kept up-to-date with these technological breakthroughs as well as the transition to Net Zero, and what they mean for consumer safety.

The call for evidence will also explore how product safety can be improved to reflect the needs of everyone in society. Research suggests that some virtual reality headsets can be associated with higher levels of motion sickness in females compared to male users, and there are some examples of voice recognition technologies that do not respond as well to female voices, or facial recognition technologies less able to recognise certain skin tones.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards is the UK government body tasked with ensuring that the public is protected from potentially unsafe products and that businesses understand their obligations.